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PLANNING YOUR

ENGAGEMENT SESSION

choosing the perfect time, location,
outfit & more!

Welcome

A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE

We’re so excited to be working with you and we can’t wait for our time together during your engagement session! It’s normal to be a little nervous about your session. We always tell people that we still get nervous before having our photos taken – and we do this for a living!

We’re big fans of engagement sessions for a few reasons. First, they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera. It takes time for most couples to warm up to being photographed and understand how we pose. Timelines can be pretty tight on weddings days and 30 minutes may be all we have for portraits – which is why we’ve found that wedding day portraits turn out so much better when couples do engagement sessions ahead of time. 

Second, you can showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is signficant to the two of you (and even include pets!). While they’re great for save-the-dates, we’ve taken engagement photos anywhere from 18 months in advance to a few days before the wedding.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to planning a session and since we get asked the same things over and over again, we thought it would be the most beneficial if we put together a guide that walks you through everything you need to know.

We’ll cover what to wear, whether to bring pets & how to manage them, location ideas and more!

– JONATHAN & RUTH

A NOTE TO

The Couple

We get it. Having your picture taken for 1-2 hours might not be in your top-10 favorite things to do during your downtime. And at first you might feel sort of awkward being in front of the camera. But we think you’ll find that by the end of the session, it’s a lot easier than you thought, and you even had a little fun. We look forward to it because it’s a great opportunity for us all to hang out a bit before the wedding day.

TIME & LIGHT

Is there a "good" time to take photos?

Engagement sessions can take place anywhere from immediately following a proposal to just a few days before the wedding. We’ve found that there isn’t a “good” or “bad” time to take your photos. We normally plan sessions based on a particular “look” a couple has in mind, spring flowers for example, or based on schedules.

Sessions typically last about an hour and a half and when when we can—we love to begin sessions about two hours before sunset. We prefer to shoot when the sun is lower in the sky to avoid harsh shadows and bright sun patches. The first two hours after sunrise is also an ideal time to shoot.

We schedule sessions during what we believe will be the best light of the day – which means that it’s super important to be on time. If you’re late to an evening session, we could run out of light before we’ve finished shooting and if your session takes place in the morning, the sun gets more harsh as it rises.

Seasons

While we shoot most of our engagement sessions between April and late November, sessions can take place all year. Most of our couples choose a season based on the location where they want to shoot.

A few things to keep in mind during each season:

Save-the-dates

If your wedding is local, save the dates should be sent between 6 and 8 months before the wedding. For a destination wedding, you’ll want to send them out 8 to 10 months before the wedding.

If you’re hoping to use your engagement photos for your save the dates, we recommend scheduling your session at least two months before you plan to send out your save-the-dates. Between inclement weather, editing, designing your save-the-dates and printing, two months is generally a safe amount of time to make sure your images and cards are ready.

Locations

A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE

We love when couples choose a location for their session that complements their wedding. For example if you’re planning a chic, elegant wedding, it may be fitting to take your engagement portraits among the classic architecture in downtown DC, while a local park or flower-filled fields may be more fitting for a couple planning a more rustic affair. The best session locations are often meaninful places to the couple; however, we’re also happy to make recommendations. From ski slopes to lavender fields to apple picking and college campuses, the options for engagement session locations are endless!

CLASSIC & ELEGANT

Jefferson Memorial 
Georgetown 
Maryland State House 
Capitol Hill
An Old Mansion  

COASTAL

Eastport (Annapolis) 
St. Michaels 
The Narrows (Kent Island) 
Naval Academy 
Chestertown

URBAN

Federal Hill 
Downtown Annapolis 
Fells Point

BEACH

The Narrows (Kent Island) Terrapin Park Jonas Green State Park

RUSTIC

A Vineyard 
Tree & Flower Farms 
Kinder Farm Park 
Quiet Waters Park 
Patapsaco Valley State Park 

ADVENTURE

Cooking class 
Hiking
Sailing / Boating 
the above locations are all beautiful but we also love exploring meaningful locations with our couples!

Destination Engagement Sessions

While we take most of our engagement sessions in the Washington D.C. area, 
we’ve photographed sessions everywhere from Richmond to New York City to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If you have a location in mind that is significant to the two of you, let us know because if our schedules align, we might be able to take your engagement photos outside of our normal area.

Travel fees may apply depending on the location and our availability.

Including Your Pets

Our dog is huge part of our family, which is why we love when couples choose to incorporate pets into their session. Keep in mind that bringing a pet along often means that we’ll need to choose a pet friendly location.

We recommend planning for your pet to be at the first part of your session and then either dropping them off or having a friend take them home. We won’t use the pet in every single photo so it’s also nice to have a friend available to hold him or her in between shots.

If you’re going to bring a pet, we recommend exercising your pet before the session and bringing your pets favorite toy or treats! Depending on your pet’s fur type, it might also be a good idea to groom them before the shoot.

Outfits

TIPS FOR LOOKING YOUR BEST

When picking outfits we recommend keeping in mind the word “complement” rather than “match.” For example, if the groom-to-be is wearing a blue and pink pastel plaid shirt, the bride-to-be may want to choose a long, soft blue dress. It can also be a great idea to choose “color-families,” such as pastels or jewel tones. 

Generally couples pick two outfits for an engagement session: a more formal outfit and a casual outfit. We recommend saving your favorite outfit for later in the session, when couples usually feel more comfortable in front of the camera. And don’t forget to bring a few accessories! Statement necklaces, cute shoes and classic watches are great ways to add detail to outfits. 

Ring Cleaning

When we can, we always try to take a photo of your ring during your engagement session – so it’s a good idea to have it cleaned or clean it yourself before your shoot! To clean at home, soak your ring in warm water with dishwashing soap for 20 to 40 minutes. Then gently brush the stone with a soft toothbrush, rinse and repeat if needed.

Props

champagne is always a good idea

If you’re planning to bring props to your engagement session, we recommend including them only if they’re meaningful to you. Shots of drinking coffee at a local coffee shop would be cute if that’s where you met; however, a trying to fly a kite together when it’s not a part of your relationship may come off as contrived.

POSING

"What do I do with my hands"?

When it comes to posing for your engagement session, you don’t need to worry about a thing! We’ll guide you through the entire process beginning with “poses” that are super easy and natural. If we tell you to do something that feels a little funny, it’s probably because we know it’s going to make the two of you laugh – and that’s the photo we’re actually looking for. Throughout your session, we’ll keep an eye on your hair, makeup and outfits to make sure things stay in place. We want you to feel as relaxed as possible and enjoy your time together!

Date Night

If you’re anything like us, you probably don’t get dressed up all that often. Which means that the day of your engagement session is the perfect occasion for a date night (or brunch if your session is in the morning!) The engagement session is another part of celebrating your love and heading off to dinner is a great way to end the session!

When to Expect Your Images

As soon as possible after your session is complete, we’ll transfer/backup your images and begin culling our favorites. It normally takes us about 2-3 weeks to edit your images. Unless we have a holiday closure, you can expect to receive your engagement photos between 3 and 4 weeks after your session.

THANK YOU!

We know that this guide is long and hopefully it covers everything you need to know to prep for your engagement session! However if there is something we missed, or you need a recommendation feel free to email info@gonzalezj.com

ATTENTION! Accepting Only 3 More Couples For 2021. Contact Us To Inquire About Your Date/Availability!
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